Florida has witnessed waves of immigrants from Puerto Rico, then Colombia, then Brazil, and most recently Venezuela.

Richardo Panneflek, president of Fortuna Bakery, sees the changing patterns of Hispanic immigration into the United States and recognizes the next wave of emerging opportunities for his bakery business.

“We have four large Hispanic mixes in Orlando,” he points out. “We have to cater to everyone.”

Lily Cisneros at Mia Ranchito in Ocoee, Florida, witnesses the distinct result of Florida’s evolving and blossoming population – more demand. Mia Ranchito specializes in unique creations like mil hojas, a flaky pastry that is a popular favorite among its customers.

“I’ve been here since 2005, and the new owners added a bakery and tortilleria, which are very successful,” Cisneros says. “Local restaurants also buy our breads to make their own tortas. Restaurants will buy 30-count or 60-count breads at a time.”

At La Hacienda Latina in Orlando, they produce a wide variety of breads that are conveniently packaged for grab and go.

“All of our breads we make with passion,” La Hacienda’s owner Maria Alvarez shares. “Every bread has a different flavor. Our baker works for the customer. That is his secret.”

Another central Florida panaderia, Acapulco Tropical y Mas caters to a wide variety of customers and features something for everyone.

“For me, to make a customer smile is our passion,” shares Ana Leyva of Acapulco Tropical. “That’s what pays off – when you can bring home to them.”

Panneflek at Fortuna Bakery believes the secret to their success remains – and always will be – the personal touch that customers recognize and reward with their loyalty.

“AI (artificial intelligence) is not going to take our job. You will not replace a baker, a pastry chef, a waitress, a cashier. We are truly a people business,” the bakery owner explains. “Americans want to share their experiences. We are no longer a grab and go business. We are a place where people can sit down and share a meal.”

Demographic evolution

Demographic changes support the notion that Florida will continue to see widespread diversity among Hispanic cultures.

The Census Bureau estimates there were roughly 63.7 million Hispanics in the U.S. as of 2022, a new high. They made up 19% of the nation’s population.

Behind the official Census Bureau number, however, lies a long history of changing labels, shifting categories and other factors. That history reflects evolving cultural norms about what it means to be Hispanic or Latino in the U.S. today.

The five largest Hispanic populations in the U.S. by origin group were Mexicans (37.2 million), Puerto Ricans (5.8), Salvadorans (2.5), Dominicans (2.4) and Cubans (2.4). The other three origin groups with populations over 1 million were Guatemalans (1.8 million), Colombians (1.4) and Hondurans (1.1)

Between 2010 and 2021, the Venezuelan population in the U.S. increased by 169%, from 240,000 to 640,000. This was by far the fastest growth rate among Hispanic origin groups. Dominicans and Guatemalans had the next-fastest growth rates at 60% each.

In contrast, Mexicans, the largest Hispanic origin group, had the slowest growth rate, at 13%.

In addition, results of a Pew Research Center survey highlight language and customs as key components of national identity. Of the four dimensions of national identity included in the survey, language is by far the most valued. In all countries asked about it, about eight-in-ten or more point to language as important for true belonging in the country.

Across more than 20 countries surveyed, a median of 91% say being able to speak their country’s most common language is important for being considered a true national, and 81% say sharing their country’s customs and traditions is important for true belonging.